EU outlook raised
Moody’s raised its rating outlook for the EU to stable from negative on Friday, citing the improvement of its members’ finances and falling risks from the eurozone debt crisis. Moody’s affirmed the EU’s top-flight “Aaa” rating and said the main reason for the outlook change is “the improvement in the credit standing of the largest shareholders that the EU relies on” in crises. It pointed to the improved ratings of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, countries whose ratings outlooks have recently turned stable or positive. “Together, 80.5 percent of the contributions to the EU’s budget now come from countries with a stable or positive outlook,” Moody’s said.
Venezuelan inflation rises
Venezuela’s annual inflation rate rose to 57.3 percent last month, the Venezuelan central bank said on Friday, as violent opposition demonstrations during the month disrupted its economy. The South American OPEC nation, which has one of the world’s highest rates of inflation, said that despite the protests inflation slowed on a month-on-month basis to 2.4 percent from 3.3 percent in January. Demonstrators outraged over shortages of staple goods and soaring consumer prices have been staging protests and blocking roads since the middle of last month demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro resign.
Fed reports US$4tn balance
The US Federal Reserve said on Friday that its balance sheet swelled to US$4 trillion at the end of last year as it made massive asset purchases to support the US economy. The Fed, in a report of its financial results last year, said net assets increased by US$1.1 trillion compared with its balance on Dec. 31, 2012. It paid net profit of US$79.6 billion to the US Treasury. Last year’s Treasury payment was less than the record US$88.4 billion in 2012. The Fed said it had reaped no gains on the sales of US Treasury securities last year compared with US$13.3 billion in gains in the prior year. While earnings are generated by the interest rate the Fed charges to banks in refinancing operations, the bulk of the Fed’s earnings last year came from interest accrued from the asset-purchase program, which is aimed at damping long-term interest rates to encourage US lending and hiring.
Tesla to keep stores
Tesla Motors Inc chairman Elon Musk said the company will keep its two New Jersey stores open as showrooms after appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie barred it from selling directly to consumers. Musk said Tesla’s stores, at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus and the Mall at Short Hills in Millburn, will become “galleries” on April 1, when the ban takes effect. Customers can view the cars there before ordering from the company’s Web site. Tesla will continue selling from locations in Manhattan and suburban Philadelphia, he said in a blog post. The eight-member US Motor Vehicle Commission, which consists of members of Christie’s cabinet and other gubernatorial appointees, voted unanimously on Tuesday to block Tesla from direct sales. While auto dealers said the move would protect consumers, Tesla and its supporters accused the state of favoring local dealerships.